Heralds of the Storm
5 Things All Characters Know
The World of Warhammer – 10 things everybody in the old world knows.
- The world – Shining nations and dark wilderness
The world of Warhammer is known as The Old World – a dramatic landscape of towering mountain ranges, dark forests, mighty rivers and harsh windswept plains. It’s an ancient land teeming with various creatures and races all competing for resources and dominance. War and conflicts are common and alliances are quickly formed and abandoned. Roughly, the major cultures in the old world belong to either side of the loose alliances of Order or Destruction. The dominating culture in the old world is the various nations of Men, as the last two millennia have seen humans to rise to dominance. Conversely, the empires of Elves and Dwarfs are in a long state of decline.
Beyond any doubt, the jewel of the world is The Empire – at least in the eyes of its citizens. Founded by the ancient warchief Sigmar Heldenhammer over two and a half millennia ago, It stands today surrounded by lesser realms and the harsh wilderness. The Empire is not a centralized nation, but rather a feudal confederacy of 11 large and semi-independent provinces, bound together by common interests, history, language, religion, and culture. The provinces are ruled by the Elector Counts who select one of their number to be Emperor – the figurehead of the nation. The current Emperor is Karl Franz, who was elected and crowned in 2502 IC, he rules from Altdorf, the capital of Riekland.
Beyond the Empire lies the Human nations of Bretonia, Estalia and Tilea to the west and south. In the World’s Edge and Gray Mountain ranges lies the numerous holds of the Dwarven realm, the closest allies of men. To the north lies the harsh land of Kislev and the savage lands of Norsca and the Troll countries. The Sea of Claws is also to the north which connects the great sea and the fabled Ulthuan, the island realm of the High Elves. Beyond these lands is only untamed wilderness infested with savages and monsters.
Not even the lands of the Empire are very safe – the great untamed forests and mountains that covers the land are largely unexplored and filled with all kinds of horrors. Crazed Necromancers work in their secret towers, warbands of savage Beastmen and mutants slip in and out of the forest shadows and the Greenskins launch constantly launch raids from the mountain passes.
- The people of the empire – Inequality and ignorance
The quality of life in the Empire is generally harsh and unforgiving. A few privileged nobility and rich merchants live in comfort while the masses of peasants and laborers toil in hardship. Stations are mainly hereditary and movement in between is almost unheard of. If you’re born a peasant, you die a peasant. Death is always a constant companion in the life of a citizen. If not from rural famine then from some illness contracted in a city or perhaps as a victim in one of the common skirmishers or battles in the frontiers. In short; Life is cheap. No wonder the people of the empire are fatalistic, grim and deeply religious. The level of education is low, most can’t read or write and know nothing of the world outside beyond what they can walk in a day. Perhaps they have visited the nearest town once a year. In such a place outsiders and travelers are seen with distrust. Reason easily gives way to superstition and fear. The power of traditions are strong and the loyalty to the local lord are often stronger that the loyalty to the distant Emperor. Most quickly loose the innocence of childhood and lofty ideals mean nothing to a starving, desperate man.
- Reason & Technology – The changing times
In the large cities – life is still cheap but also very different from the countryside. Here culture, science and art flourishes. Advances in technology is steadily growing in acceptance and a middleclass of merchants, traders, artisans and scholars are becoming a power to be reckoned with. Recent innovations such as gunpowder, the printing press and clockworks are seeing wide use. Culture is on the rise and the wealthy engage in masquerade balls, poetry recitals and Tilean opera; while the commoners settle for burlesque comedies and circus sensations. The cities influence spread with the trade ways along the rivers, having a strong pull on all kinds of citizens to leave their old life behind. Most only find a new kind of poverty in the slums of the cities where healthcare and social welfare are unknown concepts. Crime and corruption run rampart below the surface and hidden cults fester in the shadows, preying on discontentment and jealousy. The empire is a place where the new enlightenment of culture and technology clash violently with the deep rooted ignorance and traditions of old.
- Chaos – The shadow from the north
Even though most citizens of the empire are blissfully ignorant of the true nature of chaos, it’s ever-present in their lives. The power of chaos is behind most things that are bad in life, it warps friends in to foes, it changes the flesh with mutations or it sends monsters and beasts from the wilderness to terrorize and destroy. Chaos is personified by the chaos gods who’s names are never spoke aloud. Even though it’s against the Sigmarite law, the chaos gods are often shown great fear and respect. Sometimes they need to be placated or turned to when things are desperate. To do so is to court damnation, but for some it’s seen as the only way out or even as a quick means to power. However, nothing good ever comes from meddling with the forces of chaos – that is why they are commonly referred to as the Ruinous Powers. Zealots and Whitchfinders roam the countryside trying to scour the taint of chaos from the world with fire and fear – the end have to justify the means and innocents are too often the victims of their crusade. Chaos is a part of life for the people of the old world, truly a dark force of nature that man cannot hope to control or contain. The origin of chaos are a mystery to people but it is generally accepted that the source of chaos stems from somewhere in the northern wastes. In the history of the empire there have been numerous invasions and incursions, originating from the north. Indeed, the further north you travel from the bounds of the Empire, the more prevalent are the warping effects of chaos on the denizens and the very landscape itself.
- Magic – the knife’s edge
From chaos stems a great wonder of the old world – Magic. The winds of magic blow over the lands as invisible currents of power. Some individuals can tap into that power and wield it. In order to do so safely requires a disciplined mind and years of training, for the winds of magic are as fickle and dangerous as the chaos from which they flow. Wizards are thus seen with much fear and superstition – common folk would rather swim than knowingly be on the same riverboat as a wizard. Still, no one can deny their power or usefulness to the Empire. Men choose to wield one of the eight sanctioned colleagues of magic, each with their own traditions. The High elves use the purest form of magic and has learnt to filter out all taint, but the lifespan of a human is much to short to learn this “high magic”. As such it is reserved for the elves. Dwarfs refuse to wield the fickle and untrustworthy magic as spells – instead shaping the power into magical runes, containing and controlling the power this way. Some men choose to engage in the untrained Hegemagics or even to engage in studies of the forbidden arts of Witchcraft and Necromancy. Practising either are capital offences in the Empire. The fact that any sanctioned wizard might be a sorcerer of chaos in disguise drives much of the fear for magic-users in the common man.